Saturday, September 18, 2010

So What Just Happened With Elizabeth Warren?


One wants to protect consumers from financial predators. The other is a financial predator trying to persuade Pennsylvania voters to give him an opportunity to make sure financial predators can continue to game the system

These days no one really denies any longer that personnel is policy. And many progressives blame the failure of the Obama Administration on spectacularly bad personnel choices, starting with Rahm Emanuel, the worst of all, as Chief of Staff, but reaching especially into the Treasury Department and his cadre of economic advisors, picked from the same unsavory pool of crooked Wall Street corporatists from which McCain would have chosen his advisors. With the exception of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Obama's economic advisors are basically a bunch of Wall Street hacks and shills nearly as bad for ordinary working families as the kinds of people Bush surrounded himself with-- maybe not as malevolent in some cases, but coming from a similar elitist mindset.

That's why progressives were so excited when it looked like Elizabeth Warren, a smart, dedicated, incorruptible defender of ordinary Americans against corporate predators, might get to put her skills to work for the people in the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, something she first proposed and which has been fought against by Wall Street and their shills on both sides of the aisle. Pressured by grassroots organizations like MoveOn and several big labor unions, Obama finally decided to go against the wishes of Wall Street's congressional and executive department representatives and appoint Warren... to something. What she's being appointed to exactly, still remains a bit of a muddle. Warren herself tried to lend some clarity to what's really going on:
Over the past several weeks, the President and I have had extensive conversations about the vital importance of consumer financial protection.

The President asked me, and I enthusiastically agreed, to serve as an Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has also asked me to take on the job to get the new CFPB started-- right now. The President and I are committed to the same vision on CFPB, and I am confident that I will have the tools I need to get the job done.

President Obama understands the importance of leveling the playing field again for families and creating protections that work not just for the wealthy or connected, but for every American. The new consumer bureau is based on a pretty simple idea: people ought to be able to read their credit card and mortgage contracts and know the deal. They shouldn’t learn about an unfair rule or practice only when it bites them--way too late for them to do anything about it. The new law creates a chance to put a tough cop on the beat and provide real accountability and oversight of the consumer credit market. The time for hiding tricks and traps in the fine print is over. This new bureau is based on the simple idea that if the playing field is level and families can see what’s going on, they will have better tools to make better choices.

If the CFPB can succeed at leveling the playing field, we can go a long way toward repairing a gaping hole in the budgets of millions of families. But nobody has ever thought or argued that the consumer bureau can fix everything. Lost jobs, stagnant incomes, rising costs for college, dwindling retirement savings-- there’s a lot of work to be done.

When she was 16, my grandmother, Hannie Reed, drove a wagon in the Oklahoma land rush. Her mother had died, so she was up front with her little brothers and sisters bouncing around in the back. When I was growing up, she talked about life on the prairie, about marrying my grandfather and making a living building one-room schoolhouses, about getting wiped out in the Great Depression. She was hit with hard challenges throughout her life, but the moral of her stories was always the same: she would solve her problems one at a time by pulling up her socks and getting to work.

It’s time for all of us to pull up our socks and get to work.

OK... the Inside the Beltway media is putting it a bit differently, acknowledging that Obama is avoiding a divisive confirmation battle with Wall Street shills (i.e., the Republican Party plus far too many sold-out Democrats) by making her a "Special Adviser."
Obama said she will help oversee all aspects of the bureau’s creation and will play a “pivotal role” in deciding whom to nominate as the official head of the agency.

But it is unclear if Obama will move quickly to find another nominee who can win Senate confirmation. If Obama does nominate someone else as the agency’s director, it remains to be seen how closely that person would work with Warren and whether he or she could take positions counter to Warren’s beliefs.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said Thursday that Warren would effectively run the agency under the White House arrangement. But Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., has argued that the agency would be substantially weakened if it were operated under the leadership of someone that has not gone through the confirmation process.

Dodd, of course, pressured by voters into retiring from the Senate and eager for a big paying corporate job after January, has been one of the Democrats eager to work with McConnell to sabotage Warren and the effectiveness of the agency to prevent Wall Street from robbing the public blind again. Adam Green from the PCCC summed it up nicely for CNN:
The White House is being coy about Warren's role to appease a senator who has been irrelevant for 35 years, becomes even less relevant when he retires in 3.5 months, and who sees screwing consumers as his golden opportunity to get a high-paying job on Wall Street-- just like Bob Rubin and Rahm Emanuel did when they left the Clinton White House. The fact is that Warren will functionally have the keys to the new bureau for it's opening months, giving her immense opportunity to craft it the right way-- and giving President Obama a brief honeymoon on this issue with progressives through the election. It's still completely on the table that she'd be given a permanent appointment, and if the Wall Street types in the White House tried to stab her in the back and give someone else that role, there'd be hell to pay with progressives. That would be a really stupid move right as the president gears up his own re-election.

In making the announcement official yesterday, Obama reassured us that "the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will crack down on the abusive practices of unscrupulous mortgage lenders, reinforce the new credit card law we passed banning unfair rate hikes, and ensure that folks aren’t unwittingly caught by overdraft fees when they sign up for a checking account. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be a watchdog for the American consumer, charged with enforcing the toughest financial protections in history. I am very grateful that Elizabeth has agreed to serve in this important role of getting the Consumer Financial Bureau up and running and making it as effective as possible.”

Let's watch Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes clear some of this up a little and put it into some political context:

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At 11:32 AM, Anonymous bmaz said...

There is not a chance in hell Warren could get confirmed by the next Congress, the numbers will just not be there. With some actual real live work by the White House, including knocking Dodd back in line, Warren could have been confirmed in the current Senate. But the Obama WH intentionally sat on it to insure she could not ever be confirmed.

Very few people have read the CFPB enabling provisions in the Dodd-Frank bill; I have and they are eye opening. The sheer amount of power and authority that can be sucked in from other existing agencies, as well as created anew, is beyond belief. Once you really see it, you understand there was NEVER any chance that Geithner, Summers, Obama and the banksters and MOTUs they tend to serve, were going to let Elizabeth Warren near the unbridled control of it. And they never will.

Adam Green is spewing stuff out his rear, clearly has not really read the bill and doesn't know what he is talking about.

At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elizabeth Warren isn't going to do shit. What is she going to do lower interest rates on credit cards from 30% to 25%. Making money with money is nothing but pure bull shit. You can't tweak a system that is without any redeeming social value.

Consumers need purchasing power not more debt. Eliminate debt. We don't owe the sun let alone a bunch of rich bastards that have been ripping off the system forever.

A new system based on abundance not scarcity. Wake up humans what ever needs to done can be done!

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Juan Liberale said...

What happened is that Obama did what Obama always does. He took the chickenshit way out.

We voted for change, but we got a president who is just as spineless as the rest of the democratic party.

People in this country have two choices. The Insane Right Wing Nutcase Party or the New Republican Lite Party.


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